Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nancy Drew Values Part 1 - Dust Jackets

Many people cite the values in Farah's Guide when they list their Nancy Drew books for sale. In fact, price guides drive the values of items. If a noted authority states that the items are worth a certain amount, then it must be so. When I still actively followed the values of comic books, I remember that prices spiked each year shortly after the latest Overstreet guide was released. Were the comic books suddenly worth more, or were people reacting to the guide's statement of the books' value? I contend that people were raising their prices based on the new values listed in the guide.

This same phenomenon has occurred with Farah's Guide. I remember when Farah first released the 11th and 12th editions, sellers' prices spiked to match his values. Were the books suddenly worth more? I don't think so. In truth, the books were perceived to be worth more.

Before I continue, I want to make clear that this commentary is not intended to criticize Farah's Guide; but rather, I intend to explore how actual values vary from the prices listed in the guide. All of the old editions of Farah's Guide that list prices (the earliest editions did not have prices in them) are useful as they let collectors know which books are worth more than others.

The problem is that many people take the prices in the guide as the literal truth. As a result, they price some of their books too high, while others are priced too low. What Farah's Guide actually does is show which books are worth more than others, not the actual values of those books.

The most valuable Nancy Drew books are the true first printings of #1-7 with intact dust jackets, and the values in Farah's Guide are fairly accurate for the early dust jackets. The first printing books tend to sell for less than the quoted values. The dust jacket for the first printing of volume 1 is assigned a value of $10,000, and this value holds true as one example sold for $11,700. The first printing book for volume 1 is assigned a value of $1,000, and it rarely achieves that level. I recall seeing it happen at least once in the past, but generally, the first printing of volume 1 without a dust jacket sells for no more than $500 to $600.

The first printing dust jackets of volumes 2 through 5 and volume 7 almost always attain the values listed in Farah's Guide, which are in the low thousands of dollars. The dust jacket for volume 6 is valued at only $800, because the first five printings have the identical dust jacket, which makes it the easiest early first printing jacket to find. The bare first printing books of the same volumes seldom reach the values listed, which range from $250 up to $1,500.

This is particularly true for the first printing book of volume 7, which is assigned a value of $1,500 in Farah's Guide. I have seen countless sellers try to obtain $1,000 or more for this book without a dust jacket—and fail. The first printing book for volume 7, while very scarce, tends to sell for no more than $500 to $600 without a dust jacket.

For books from the 1930s that are not first printings and have dust jackets, the actual prices paid range from well below Farah's Guide to well above Farah's Guide. It seems that people have greatly varying perceptions of the values of the books from the 1930s, whereas the prices used to be consistently high.

The bare books from 1932 through 1939 are valued at $20 to $60 each, and the dust jackets are valued at around $120 to $400 each. The bare books tend to sell within the quoted range, although they sometimes sell for less. The dust jackets sometimes sell for more than the Farah's Guide value, but I have seen also many of the 1930s jackets sell for far less than Farah's values and for less than the modern Applewood books with jackets, which is kind of bizarre. This is especially ironic considering that the Applewood editions were supposed to be cheap alternatives to the 1930s editions; instead, the Applewood editions are pricier than many of the old books.

This same trend is true for most books with jackets from the 1940s and 1950s, especially for the tweed books with jackets. The tweed books from the 1950s with dust jackets are valued at around $30 to $50 each. The prices have collapsed to where it is very difficult to sell a tweed book with a dust jacket for more than $10 to $15.

I find it easier to get $5 to $8 for a tweed book without dust jacket than to get $10 to $15 for a tweed book with dust jacket. It hardly makes sense, but it is true. For some inexplicable reason, I find that the dust jacket no longer adds that much value to a tweed book in the current buying market. In fact, the buyers seem to value the picture cover editions far more than the editions with dust jackets and are often willing to pay steep prices for the picture cover editions.

This is a disturbing trend for those of us who have been collecting for a while, since we had to pay steep prices for the dust-jacketed editions that now command such low prices. It is downright depressing to have extra books to sell that now have little perceived value.


stratomiker said...

I think we need to understand how the amazing availability of Nancy Drew and series books in general has cut into the ability to sell them. There are just so many out there! What amazes me is that the books have held their popularity, because there are many older collectibles that have not.

Before eBay there were a handful of us selling in fanzines and we could get ridiculous prices. I can remember putting absurd prices on books just as a lark, to see if they'd sell, and they did. I used to auction books via Yellowback by phone and the bidders would go bananas - and always so happy to get the books.

When eBay began, it was fun to have auctions with such a big audience. To most of us, it was the enjoyment of handling the books and having so much of what so many others wanted. It wasn't about the money. But having been used to selling the books for lots of money, it hasn't been pleasant to see how the values have 'collapsed', as you stated.

Like Cher is noted for saying, "I've been rich, I've been poor. Rich is better." We sold the books for lots, we sell them now for less. 'Lots' was better.

What I'm glad about is that they are still popular. Who'd think anyone would still be interested in such obscure stuff like the Pony Boys or Grace Harlowe? But people are, and in a big way. Our hobby has survived the new milennia, which is amazing. We just have to get used to the lower value of the books today.


Jennifer White said...

It is great that the books are still popular. We are fortunate that Nancy Drew has such a strong licensee, Her Interactive. The games are hugely possible, and I know of one person who recently built a set of the original 56 Nancy Drew books solely because she enjoyed the Nancy Drew games. She played the games first, liked them, and then bought the books. How great is that?!

And when people are introduced to Nancy Drew, some of them end up collecting the other series books as well.